Is the Home Theater PC for You Cheshire CT
Is the Home Theater PC for You
August 1, 2005 By Dennis Burger
“There is no reason why anyone would want a computer in the home.” Despite being one of the world’s foremost computer pioneers, poor Ken Olsen will forever be known for this unfortunate 1977 prediction.
Rip or Download
Windows Media Center can access downloadable music through a variety of online services, or you can rip your own CDs onto the computer’s hard drive and play them through your audio system. (Click image to enlarge)
To be fair, few back then envisioned the extent to which computers would pervade our lives in 2005. And now, thanks to Microsoft’s Windows XP Media Center Edition computer operating system, PCs have begun invading our home theaters. They assume the roles of DVD player, TV tuner, digital video recorder, music server, digital photo archive, online portal, and so much more—all in one box with a unified control screen.
A Different Game
Alienware’s DHS 2 Windows Media Center PC may look like an audio/video component, but it’s actually slanted more toward gaming applications than for home theater use. (Click image to enlarge)
Thus, “convergence”—that mythical buzzword used to tout the marriage of computers and home entertainment—is finally a reality. At least in my home it is. As I sit on my couch click-clacking away on the keyboard to write this article, the sound of The Traveling Wilburys Volume 1 surrounds me in Dolby Pro Logic II, while the DVD-ROM bonus features for Lord of the Rings: Return of the King sit waiting for me at the bottom of the screen—to be explored not on a dinky 19-inch computer monitor, but on a 55-inch high-definition TV.
Before I add the period to the previous sentence, Windows Messenger pops up in the corner of my TV: “Imperials are attacking the city!” I save my article, stop the DVD, and within mere moments I’m loading into the virtual online worlds of the Star Wars Galaxies game. Without changing the settings on my television, without touching a single button on my surround-sound processor, without so much as getting off of my couch, I go from typing a feature story for a respectable magazine to wearing my geek hat in a galaxy far, far away––bigger than life and in full surround sound. Meanwhile, the same machine is recording the TV drama Grey’s Anatomy so I can watch it later. And I can control all these functions from a fairly simple remote much like the one that comes with a TV set.
Style and Substance
Some of the most interesting Windows Media Center products are trying on new styles—including VoodooPC’s Omen, which the company calls “the fastest desktop on Earth.” (Click image to enlarge)
Windows Media Center is both an extension to the Windows XP operating system you probably use on your desktop or laptop computer, and a set of loose requirements for PC makers who want their machines to carry the Windows Media Center logo. You can use the computer just as you would a normal Windows machine, but when you switch to Media Ce...